Hunger Ghost 饿鬼.jpg

In accordance with Chinese Buddhism, when any person dies they become a ghost (鬼 guǐ), and as their 3 Hun and 7 Po (三魂七魄 sān hún qī pò) dissipate, they die a second death. If, however, a person's death is particularly horrific, violent, if their entire family is killed together, or if their descendants no longer offer the correct sacrifices, there is a chance the deceased will become a Hungry Ghost. Additionally, if in life a person commits evil acts, such as, but not limited to, stealing, murder, or crimes of a sexual nature, there is also a chance they will be reincarnated into the form of a Hungry Ghost as punishment for their evil deeds. 

The term Hungry Ghost is a direct translation of the Chinese, 饿鬼, but the concept itself is believed to have derived from a simliar conept that can be found in Indian culture, namely, a Preta.

According to Chinese Buddhism, we are all stuck in a never-ending cycle of reincarnation. Depending on your level of "evil", or how much "karma" you have brought upon yourself in previous lives, you will be reincarnated into one of six realms which, put crudely, are; God > Demigod > Human > Animal > Ghost > Di Yu (Hell).

Of all these realms and all the setient beings that belong in each, Hungry Ghosts are the lowest possible form. Together there are nine variations belonging to three separate categories:

  1. Ghosts (with) no wealth (无财鬼 wú cái guǐ) - these are hungry ghosts that are unable to consume food of any kind.
Hungry Ghost 饿鬼 (è guǐ)
Status: Ghost
Gender: Male or Female
Pronunciation: (audio file coming soon)
Best known for: The lowest form of sentient life

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- Torch-Mouth Ghosts (炬口鬼 jù kǒu guǐ): Strong flames often burst from their mouths uncontrollably searing their skin. Their bodies feel like the bark of a burning tree with absolutely no way to quench their thirst or hunger. 

- Needle-Mouthed Ghosts (鍼口鬼 zhēn kǒu guǐ): With bellies the size of a valley and mouths the size of a needle hole they can see food but are never able to consume it.

- Pungent-Mouthed Ghosts (臭口鬼 chòu kǒu guǐ): Decomposing and putrid odors gush from their mouths as they constantly retch and vomit. They are able to find food, but the fact that they are unable to consume it drives them crazy so they run about shrieking in anger. 

2. Ghosts (with) a little wealth (少财鬼 shǎo cái guǐ) - these are hungry ghosts that are only able to consume pus, blood, and other such impure substances to satiate their thirst and hunger.

- Needle-Hair Ghosts (鍼毛鬼 zhēn máo guǐ): Their bodies are covered in hair that is as thick as metal and extremely sharp. Their hair often stabs their own bodies and will do the same to anyone who tries to approach them. As they run around in a frenzy during the daytime they can sometimes find small quantities of impure foods to alleviate their hunger. 

- Putrid-Hair Ghosts (臭毛鬼 lěi chòu máo guǐ): Their bodies are covered in hair that gives off a putrid odor, they're covered in filth, their abdomens are bloated, and their bones and muscles are burnt and rotten. Their suffering is unbareable but scratching their bodies and pulling their hairs rips their skin apart and makes it ten times worse. They can sometimes find small quantities of impure foods to alleviate their hunger. 

- Gall Ghosts (瘿鬼 yǐng guǐ): They suffer from a tumour-like growth in their throats, they burn in the sunlight and ache all over. They rip at eachother's skin and fight to consume the pus and blood that gushes out. They can sometimes find small quantities of impure foods to alleviate their hunger. 

3. Ghosts (with) much wealth (多财鬼 duō cái guǐ) - these hungry ghosts are able to consume the same as ghosts (with) a little wealth, however, every so often they will be given leftovers, or food that has been offered in charity.

- Xi Ci Ghosts (希祠鬼 xī cí guǐ)1 - They often visit sacrificial sites or graveyards, for example, where food has been laid out as an offering to the dead and steal the food they find there.  

- Xi Qi Ghosts (希弃鬼 xī qì guǐ)2 - They collect vomit and excrement and consume as food. 

- Da Shi Ghosts (大势鬼 dà shì guǐ)3 - Also known as Yao Cha (药叉 yào chā), Luo Sha Po (逻刹娑 luó shā pó) or Gong Pan Tu (恭畔荼 gōng pàn tú), they like to live in forests, temples, valleys and unmanned palaces. There are lots of them, and they like to have fun. They would never consider going to a place where no money can be found. 


1 希 comes from 希望 = hope. 祠 comes from 祠堂 = ancestral temple; memorial temple. So 希祠鬼 is often translated to "Ghost of Sacrifice" in English.

2 希 comes from 希望 = hope. 弃 comes from 抛弃 = throw away; abandon; forsake; cast away. So 希弃鬼 is often translated to "Ghost of Loss" in English. 

3 大 = big; great. 势 come from 势力 = force; power; influence. So 大势鬼 is often translated to "Ghost of Great Power" in English.